The Music In Us

Last night I had the incredible humbling privilege of once again standing before the Tennessee Ladies Chorus to conduct a concert of worship music.  I have never heard them sing with more power.  It helps that First Baptist Church Cookeville sanctuary possesses fine acoustics for choral music.  It helps that the crowd gathered were primarily supportive believers whose expectation of inspiring musical expression did not go wanting.  But I believe with all my heart that the real force at work among us in that setting was the Holy Spirit engaging hearts and minds in a way that only He can as the choir of seventy plus treble voices combined with instruments, all seeking to communicate the message of the songs, the message of the Gospel in the spirit of worship.

Reflecting on last night’s worship as well as upon a life of music-making as means of ministry and worship, I am again overwhelmed with God’s goodness in allowing us to be part of His Kingdom’s work.  The Apostle Paul stated that God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. (1 Cor 1:27)  Surely we see example of such when we experience music that speaks to our hearts at the same time it provides a means of expression to the deepest recesses of our souls.  How could a combination of ordered sounds and words work ministry in people’s lives?  As musicians we often reflect upon the most obvious applications of music as ministry – stories of how one song or the other spoke to the heart of someone who recently experienced loss or pain, and happened to be in a service of music presentation.  There are songs that seem to stir us to action precisely because they help us express joy or celebration.  These obvious applications of music as ministry are easily accessible.  In fact, last night, as usually is the case, I heard these applications expressed from many persons following the concert.  To hear about these effects on people is meaningful and encouraging.  They demonstrate that listeners were active in their listening. They also indicate that one purpose for the singing has been accomplished.  I understand these reflections as evidence that ministry has taken place as intended and prayed for by the music presenters.  These reflections are gratifying to be sure.

But alas, there is more.  James K. A. Smith reminds us that “music gets ‘in’ us in ways other forms of discourse rarely do.” (Desiring the Kingdom, 171)  It occurs to me that in God’s economy of things, somehow for us life experience joins Word of Truth and these become animated with artistic imagination looking for release.  For so many of us music, perhaps more than any other human art form, provides that release.  I can sing worship in which I recall life experience, apply Gospel truth, and express response all at once through this music.  Whether singer, player, or listener, through this process we may be indescribably reminded of what it is to be human.  I suppose it could be said that any kind of music might bring similar conclusion.  In presentation of musical art where the created being is offering response to his/her Creator, though, it would seem more fully human.  Through the ordering of sound we may be moved to reorder life and its desires within the context of Christian worship.  The profound impact is mystery.  Formation is taking place that may reside in me as active memory for a time, or may lie seemingly dormant only to later be reactivated when chords are strummed again, and Christian thinking and feeling about things is excited once again.

Paul said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” (Col 3:16)  Is it possible that even by the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs the word dwells in us richly?  Our singing in Christian worship is recognizably part of our identity.  For musicians music-making often provides avenues of expression that words alone seem not to afford.  It appears often to communicate to heart and soul of hearers as well.

Bob Kauflin refers to “the three R’s of why Christians sing: remember, respond, and reflect.

Thank God for the gift of music.  Thank Him for music that enters in to our minds and hearts and becomes part of us.  Thank Him for the gift that allows us to find the music within that enables us to express our remembrance and response to Him, and that somehow reflects His glory.  Thank God for music that captures our heart’s imagination and moves us to a more profound alleluia.

How often, making music, we have found

A new dimension in the world of sound

As worship moved us to a more profound

Alleluia! Alleluia!

And did not Jesus sing a psalm that night

When utmost evil strove against the light?

Then let us sing, for whom He won the fight

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let every instrument be tuned for praise!

Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise!

And may God give us faith to sing always

Alleluia! Alleluia!

–       Fred Pratt Green, 1972

Resounding praise,

Paul

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Leading Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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